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Hopefuls seek out votes for the last time
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Incumbent state court Judge Charlie Wynne, had his family stumping for him Monday. Wynne’s daughter, Sara Wynne Billingsley, campaigns at the Atlanta and Winder highway intersection. - photo by Harris Blackwood

FLOWERY BRANCH — There is no proof that it really does any good, but local candidates or their surrogates waved and held signs in hopes of swaying last-minute voters Monday.

William I. "Sonny" Sykes, who is challenging incumbent state court Judge Charlie Wynne, began his day campaigning at the intersection of Atlanta and Winder highways at Blackshear Place. Sykes and his wife, Nancy, made several other stops during the day to shake hands with voters and ask for their vote today.

"We waved signs for an hour and a half. We started early, and we’ll finish late," said Sykes, who said he will be back on the stump this morning.

Sykes spoke in a shopping center parking lot with Colin and Jan Smith of Flowery Branch.

Colin Smith, a native of the United Kingdom who became a U.S. citizen last November, already had cast his first general election ballot during the early voting period, as did his wife.

Wynne, on the other hand, had a full day of jury trials at the Hall County Courthouse.

"I was doing what the people elected me to do," Wynne said, adding that he was spending Monday night calling his supporters to thank them for their help. He said he may shake a few hands this morning, but will spend the day at the courthouse.

Wynne was not without visible campaigners. His wife, Nancy, daughter, Sara Wynne Billingsley, and a friend, Jane Lake, waved signs and American flags at passing motorists at the Winder and Atlanta highways intersection as the sun set on Monday.

State Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, was waving signs in front of the Stonebridge Crossing shopping center in Flowery Branch on Tuesday afternoon.

Mills was joined by his daughter, Mary Quinn, 6, and his wife, Rita, and a handful of supporters.

"It’s never over until it’s over," Mills said. "Until the buzzer sounds and the polls are closed, you keep campaigning until the end."

Mills’ opponent, Christopher Strickland, a Flowery Branch Democrat, also was out pressing the flesh and waving signs at parking lots and busy intersections in South Hall, where the district is located.

"We’ll be out there again Tuesday morning," Strickland said.

The legislative and judicial races are the only contested Hall County races on today’s ballot.

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, is facing a challenge from Democratic newcomer Jeff Scott of Walker County.

While Hall County tends to vote heavily for Republicans, the emergence of Barack Obama has brought a wave of new Democratic voters to the polls in Georgia.

That could benefit Jim Martin in his challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

"They are voters who are motivated in their enthusiasm for Obama," University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said. "They may literally be surprised to see all the other things they have to consider (on the ballot). If they’re at a loss, they’ll probably go with the Democrat."

Whether Obama’s support will be enough to topple the state’s reliable GOP base and defeat Republican nominee John McCain is still an open question, but the dynamics of the presidential race clearly have the Chambliss camp worried.

Heavy early voting in the state — among blacks and in Democratic counties — appears to favor Obama. The Democrat’s campaign felt good enough about Georgia to invest money in a last-minute advertising blitz in the state.

A poll released Monday by Insider Advantage, an Atlanta-based firm, showed Chambliss with a 48 percent to 43 percent lead over Martin. Libertarian Allen Buckley had 2 percent, while 7 percent remained undecided. Insider’s Matt Towery is predicting a likely runoff between Chambliss and Martin. In Georgia, the candidate must received 50 percent or more of the vote to win without a runoff.

Chambliss’ re-election once seemed a safe bet. But that was before the economy took a nosedive, and he angered some conservative supporters by backing a $700 billion financial bailout bill.

Martin has been hammering Chambliss on the economy. He’s had help from several outside groups, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been filling the airwaves with ads attacking Chambliss.

Chambliss and his surrogates have their own tough spots targeting Martin’s votes for tax increases and weak support for child sex predator laws.

The rough-and-tumble contest has led to increasing speculation that none of the three Senate candidates will win more than 50 percent of the vote. Buckley could play spoiler if he wins a few percentage points, which would likely send the contest to a Dec. 2 runoff.

On the eve of the election, both candidates sought to rally their supporters.

On the town square in Marietta on Monday, Chambliss and other state GOP leaders urged some 200 party faithful to get out the vote. The crowd was upbeat, but some were concerned.

"I wasn’t concerned 60 days ago because I thought then that the election would go more our way," said Larry Maddox, a 61-year-old home builder from Kennesaw.

Millie Rogers, president of the Georgia Foundation of Republican Women, said she thought Chambliss would win, but only after runoff.

"We never thought it would be this close because Sen. Saxby has done such an outstanding job and represented us so well," said Rogers, 61.

Martin appeared at a Democratic rally at the state Capitol that drew hundreds of supporters for him and Obama. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil-rights leader, choked up as he recounted to the crowd his feelings about voting for a black candidate for president.

"I never dreamed I’d live to see this da, and thank God I lived to see it," Lowery said.

The Insider Advantage poll shows McCain with a 1 percentage-point lead over Obama, 48 to 47 percent, among Georgia voters. Libertarian Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman, was polling 2 percent, with 2 percent undecided and 1 percent favoring another candidate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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